2 people charged in growing ‘grandparent scam’

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Since the start of 2022, Calgary police estimate more than $1.6 million has been stolen from about 122 Calgary seniors in the scam.

Worryingly, it’s getting worse – police believe 93 incidents have already taken place in September, with 35 victims losing money.

Three people have been arrested and charged, including one who was caught red-handed over the past few weeks.

Two more were arrested and are now facing charges. Police are not sure if the suspects are connected to each other.

Victims are contacted by someone who has detailed information about them, posing as a relative or police officer or someone from the legal system such as a lawyer or bail bondsman requesting money to help a loved one.

Once hooked, the victim is advised to go to a bank and withdraw cash, anywhere from a few thousand dollars to more than $10,000.

Then a ‘courier’ or ‘bailman’ turns up at their home to collect cash.

In August, a victim was defrauded of more than $300,000.

“These unscrupulous scammers use personal information to legitimize their claims, preying on the good will of seniors who will do anything to care for their family members. Any senior, not just those with cognitive concerns, can fall prey to these individuals. It is up to us as Calgarians, as employees of businesses or services that interact with seniors and as family members, to help educate the seniors in our lives about these scams,” said Calgary Police Service Staff Sgt. Andrea Koolick in a release.

Sebastian Pulgarin Osorio, 29, was charged with five counts of defrauding a person over $5,000. He is scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday, October 5.

Martina Kristal Valentini, 38, was charged with two counts of defrauding a person over $5,000. She is scheduled to appear in court on Friday, October 14.

The police remind the public that bail can only be paid in person at the courthouse or correctional facility, and receipts are issued.

Canadian currency, debit and credit cards are the only forms of payment accepted. Gift cards, e-transfers and checks are not accepted.

In most situations, the bail bondsman will make the call, not a member of the police.

More information on how grandparent scams are played out is available on the Calgary Police Service website.

When in doubt, people are advised to confirm the story they are being told by contacting the alleged family member directly or a third-party family member to help confirm.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Calgary police at 403-266-1234. Anonymous callers can contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477, online or by downloading the P3 Tips app available on the Apple or Google Play Store.

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